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Nootka Sound

Captain James Cook and his crew of the HSM Resolution and HMS Discovery were the first European explorers to discover Nootka Sound on the westcoast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They arrived on March 30th, 1778. James Cook was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer, and earned the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy.

James Cook was born November 7th, 1728 in Marton, Yorkshire, England and passed away 50 years of age on February 14th, 1779 in Hawaii. James Cook was married to Elisabeth Batts and had six children, named James, Nathaniel, Elizabeth, Joseph, George, Hugh.

Upon seeing Cook's ship, the Nootka Chief Maquinna told his people "to go out and try to understand what these people wanted and what they are after."

While Captain Cook was anchoring in Resolution Cove, Bligh Island, across from Friendly Cove, the natives yelled "itchme nutka, itchme nutka", which means "go around" (to Yuquot), but Cook misinterpreted their calls, believing the name of the area to be Nootka. They did so and Cook's crew gave them pilot biscuits. The Nootka started saying to each other that the Whites must be friendly and that they, in turn, should welcome the White strangers.

On that day Cook wrote in his log: "A great many canoes filled with the Natives were about the ships all day, and a trade commenced betwixt us and them, which was carried on with the Strictest honisty on boath sides. Their articles were the Skins of various animals, such as Bears, Wolfs, Foxes, Dear, Rackoons, Polecats, Martins and in particular the Sea Beaver, the same as is found on the coast of Kamtchatka.".

The Nootka were forward people. After they learned that the English would not harm them they showed no fear or distrust. As many as 32 canoes filled with Indians had surround the ships immediately; and 10 to 12 canoes stayed with the Resolution most of the night. Cook's first impression of the Nootka, one that lasted for only two days, was that they were mild and inoffensive, quick to trade, and strictly honest in the process.

However, the Indians soon trespassed on the English manners and customs. They laid aside all restraint, mingled freely with the Whites on the ship's decks and began helping themselves to the ships iron articles. Once they stole 20 pound fish-hooks used for fishing the anchor. On another occasion, they stole Cook's gold watch from his cabin while under guard. Many items, including the valued timepiece, were taken and returned, not voluntarily, but by force. Cook learned that the Indians were willing to impeach one another, and thus it became easy to identify the thieves. The British grew alert against "their thievish tricks."

Cook and his men, perhaps too trusting in the first place, now took appropriate precautions to stop the light-fingered tendencies of persons who considered property not personal but communal in nature, and theft a matter of dexterity and even sport.